Podcast

Episode 110 – Marie Case, Listening in Order to Learn

This week we continue our special series on the Art of Difficult Dialogue with the wisdom and expertise of Jessica’s executive coach and friend, Marie Case. Marie is, as you will hear, a wealth of knowledge. Through her years of coaching high-power CEO’s, she knows what it it takes to truly navigate a hard moment. In this season of political, social, and economic upheaval, Marie and Jessica challenge us to do what can often seem impossible – simply, intentionally, listen.

TRANSCRIPT

Jess: Hey, everyone! Welcome back to the Going Scared podcast. This is your host Jessica Honegger, founder of the social impact fashion brand Noonday Collection. Join me here every week for conversations on living lives of purpose by leaving comfort and going scared.

First of all, thank you so much to all of you who have left reviews! We’ve had over a hundred reviews left in the last couple of weeks, and honestly, it’s really encouraging reading the reviews because it helps me understand that you really like that we have multi-faceted guests on. You really enjoy some of the challenging conversations.

So, if you haven’t done that yet, go ahead and leave a review. I love what Elena Katherine said — she said that this podcast shows you what true allyship looks like; it shows you that in order to truly learn, you need to humble yourself and ask the hard and awkward questions. Sure, it’s scary as hell, but that is where true friendship and growth happens.

I love also what Mrs.FO421 said, “I really appreciate that this podcast tackles tough issues and points of view with honesty and vulnerability. It’s been good to listen to during this time at home, and it’s been educational.”

Well you guys, I am the learner here. I get to have these amazing people come on the show and really get to sit and learn from them and you get to witness that live. And this series in particular is one that I was really needing: The Art of Difficult Dialogue. Let me tell you, during an election season, during such a polarized time in our society, I was needing a refresh on how to listen because the conversations with my dad were not going well, my conversations with my daughter were not going that well, and I thought okay, okay, somebody teach me.

Today is the ultimate teacher. She has truly been an expert in my life, and she’s gonna break down what it looks like for you to listen. It is my executive coach, Marie Case. She worked with my business partner and I, Travis, for almost the whole year 2018 and transformed our relationship as co-CEOs. When we were coming up with this series of difficult dialogue, Marie was the first person that popped into my head, because, let me tell you, she has gotten Travis and I through some hard conversations and she has helped me have more of a posture of listening as a leader.

She’s an experienced executive coach, and her passion lies in guiding leaders through a transformative journey to better serve their organizations’ deeper purpose. She also occupies a unique space in my life because she really helped break down the different distinctions in what it means to listen. And as you’ve probably picked up by now in tuning into this series, we can’t have difficult dialogue if we aren’t willing to listen. In this conversation, Marie I get into what listening even means. Here is my conversation with Marie.

 

Marie Case: Listening in Order to Learn

Jess: I’m super excited to have you on the podcast. And you are definitely the first guest that I’ve had on the show that knows me in the way you know me, because you were my business coach for at least a year and continue to mentor me informally. And we covered some very intense things. I’ve spoken often on this podcast about getting 360 feedback for the first time and how I’ve learned to be now open to feedback. And, you know, you taught me to grow in my partnership with Travis at Noonday Collection, my business partner, and we just unpacked so much that we didn’t even know was there. And so, before we go any further, I just wanted to give you a moment to introduce yourself and give our listeners some context to your background and what you do.

Marie: Well, my name is Marie Case. I am a management consultant and executive coach, which I’ve been doing for over 35 years. And my work has always focused on, "How do you get people into a level of communication that allows something to happen that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise?" It’s been applied various ways. You know, I spent 15, 20 years doing post-merger and acquisition integration of executive leadership teams, which is huge, many moving parts projects. But as you well know, as of the last decade or so, I’m in no longer, you know, with an executive VP title somewhere where I have to produce a certain number of billable hours, and have the opportunity to work with companies that are up to something that I want to give my life energy to supporting, like Noonday.

And my work focuses on working with people on fundamentally, underneath everything, communication. It is the pathway. It is, you know, a fundamental organizational process but it’s also a fundamental human process, which includes not just how we speak, which is critically important, but how we listen. So, that’s a little bit about me and I live here in Austin, Texas, with my two Tibetan Spaniels and my wonderful husband. And I’ve had the great joy of working with you and Travis.

Jess: Well, something that you have helped us to do at Noonday, and in my own life, is to stand in the future, to stand in the future as if you were there and to look back and see what got you there. And so, as we were thinking about what did we want this podcast series to be, I was standing in the future. We’re recording this right now in July, we’re launching this in August. And I stood in August, I stood in September, I stood in October and I imagined, what would I wanna hear? What do I wanna listen to? And what we need right now is learning to listen.

We are at the peak of an election year, mid-pandemic still in the U.S., we lived a summer of a mass awakening among white communities to racial injustice. And there is a lot happening. Lots of conversations are happening, new conversations. And what we need are tools to hold conversations, to listen, and to regain the lost art of conversations as individuals and communities, if we are going to not just make it, but if we’re gonna thrive and come out of this other side stronger, more beautiful, more united. And as you said, I mean, the biggest thing that I learned from our time together was about how we can experience breakthroughs in many facets of life. We can learn how to listen. So, I wanted to start there because you framed listening to me in a way that I had not heard it framed before. So, what does listening mean to you?

Marie: It will be interesting to see if we match what I said before. You know, to me, first of all, granting another… I’m gonna start with kind of a very meta point to me: granting another listening is the most powerful act of love that we can do. And we don’t know what this word means. You know, when you ask somebody about listening and you’re in that conversation, you’re using this word, you know, these six letters to mean something. And yet, even in the expression of the word, the problem with building any kind of shared understanding is present. You know, breakthrough begins in shared understanding and shared commitment, which is only possible if the listening is available.

“You know, breakthrough begins in shared understanding and shared commitment, which is only possible if the listening is available.” Marie Case

So, well, what do we mean? Do we mean the common thing? Like, am I listening to you well enough to be able to repeat what you said? Or am I listening to you waiting for you to stop talking so I can talk? Am I listening with the kind of little back-of-the-amygdala voting mechanism going on? "Oh, that’s true." "That’s not true." "That’s funny." "I like that." "I don’t like that." "I agree with that." "I disagree with that." "That’s wrong." Like, that gating mechanism that everything we say is going through.

You know, that’s really kind of the state of listening. And when people talk about listening really well, honestly, they think it’s, "Am I listening well enough to be able to say back what the person said? Did I hear them?" That is a woefully insufficient relationship to listening. So, let me pause there for a second. And there’s plenty more to say about that, but where is that in the resonance with what particularly wrong with you?

Jess: Yeah. Absolutely. And I think that, especially this whole idea, because many of the things you said are what we think listening is, especially, I really connected to that last piece of, like, being in that constant judgment state. Even if it’s not a negative judgment, it’s still judging. You know, it’s still constantly running the communicator through this filter. So, when you started this listening journey, or as you lead other people through that journey, because certainly you’ve led Travis and I through that journey, what are the ways that you see people transform into actually true listeners? What does that actually look like?

Marie: The thing is you have to start with… You know, all journeys start with, "Where are you?" And you really have to start with having people have the opportunity to recognize the automatic listening. You know, you’ve heard me say, you know, we’re like a car that comes off the delivery line, off the manufacturing line. And in the old days, you know, they had those presets for… they were buttons, they were actually buttons for the radio stations. And so, we are, you know, rolling off the line, and we’ve got a button pressed for a preset. And when we take control of the car, we don’t know there were any other buttons.

And so, we’ve just got this one radio station playing. And the radio station that we’re tuned to for the most part as human beings is that one, is fundamentally, like, you know, at the top, it is right and wrong, but it plays out as all this kind of various, you know, like I said, “Do we like it? Do we not like it? Do we think it’s true? Do we not think it’s true? Do we agree? Do we disagree? Is this entertaining? Is it not entertaining?” All these little gating mechanisms. And there’s nothing else possible until someone recognizes that little voice in their head. You know, I like to say, if you don’t know what little voice I’m talking about, it’s that one that’s saying to you right now, "A little voice. I don’t know what she’s talking about. I don’t have a little voice."

Jess: Right.

Marie: You know it’s that thing, it includes, you know how we’ll be completely alone, and we’ll be carrying on a conversation with someone, but it’s not even a person necessarily? Like, we’re making our case in our head about something. And you’ve had that experience, haven’t you?

Jess: Oh yeah. Absolutely. Sometimes I’m having that conversation with you in my head. But I know that, actually, what you are is like the voice, right?

Marie: So, it’s that thing. It’s like, you know, what you’re trying to get access to and moving toward authentic listening is you’re trying to get access to presence. That’s why, you know, really fundamentally, mindfulness is a part of getting access to listening. Part of this conversation we’re having right now about race brings up this term confirmation bias, right? You’re familiar with that term?

Jess: Yes. Very.

Marie: It’s actual…

Jess: Honestly, to be honest with you, I mean, one of the reasons, I mean — you know, I’m super-transparent and open in our home and we are a very open family. And we have done anti-racism work as a family long before this conversation at the same time, some of the more direct conversations, especially around how Jack needs to act in a police situation. I had been kind of waiting to have, and then, of course, this forced me to have it, but one of my biggest fears was if I told him, you know, about this, "Is he going to now be biased to think that anyone he meets…" You know, "Is he gonna be looking for racism?" Which is interesting because we were watching "Blackish" right now. We’re absolutely bingeing on it. And the whole episode we watched last night was a very similar thing.

And it was between the father in the show and the son in the show where he was like, "Here’s all the ways that people are racist." And they’re all the things that we’re talking about right now, getting followed around in a store, getting pulled over by a cop and, you know, for no reason, getting not served well, you know, being moved to the back of the line. So, all of these things are happening in… Anyway, he’s coming with that confirmation bias. And his son is like, "Actually, dad, like, that dude just let us get off." But, anyway, explain confirmation bias and how does that show up for us and keep us from being a listener?

 

Understanding Confirmation Bias

Marie: Well, fundamentally, its definition is the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs or theories. That’s its definition. And it is present constantly in absolutely everything. Because if you think about the kids when they were little. You know, when they’re really young, when they’re under 3 and under 5, you know, they’re these blank slates as they come out. They don’t have, like, everything listed and put into buckets. "People are this way." "This is good." "This is bad." "It’s equally great to say you know, ‘I wanna do that job, the garbage pickup guy. That’s so cool. He gets on and off the truck,’ as it is to say, ‘I wanna be an astronaut’ or, ‘I wanna be a nurse,’ or, ‘I wanna be a chef,’ or whatever it is, it’s all kind of equal."

But all of us have lives in which we have our own experiences from which we draw conclusions. And then we have everything we see and everything that’s heard around us. And so, it doesn’t matter. Like, you could have the most awake, conscious, careful parents in the world. That’s not gonna keep you from developing confirmation bias, entering into the paradigms of a culture. They’re in everything, they’re in every TV show, every advertisement, every magazine cover, every utterance, every subtext. So, confirmation bias, really, I mean, it tends to get talked about around specific topics, which is kind of funny because it’s part of absolutely everything.

It is the nature of how we are being in the world. And so, we’re never listening, we are listening for. We’re listening for what we agree with, what supports how we see the world, what we disagree with that we know we have to fight against because we don’t agree with that. You know, we’re all… You know, in conversations now, you know, we’re kind of subtly, "Am I talking… Is this a Trump person? Or, you know, is this a Progressive, is this a Republican? Is this a…?" We’re sorting people more than we ever have. And so, this is something that’s getting actually worse as we’ve developed more and more polarity.

One of the things you talked about was, "How do we agree to disagree?" You can’t actually even disagree if you can’t hear the other person’s perspective. There’s this great Lily Tomlin quote that I really, really love. She said, "I listen with an intensity that most people reserve for speaking." And, of course, a comedian would say that because comedians, what they do is they observe the world and they find the ways to make the world funny. And it’s funny because we recognize it. You have to recognize it, or you don’t laugh. And so, comedians tend to be really profound observers.

“You can’t actually even disagree if you can’t hear the other person’s perspective.” Marie Case

And if you watch her comedy, you can really see that she puts that listening to incredibly good use. But mostly, when it comes to communication, we have all our focus on what we’re saying. And by the way, the part of speaking that’s part of listening is, "Are you paying attention to your own speaking in a way that it could be hearable?" I mean, you and Travis had me, you know, we talked about that. Like, "Am I saying things that are my point of view or my experience as such, or am I saying them like a factual truth?" You always do this.

Jess: Could you tell us… give a difference. Give that example.

Marie: So, it could be anything from… When it comes to people, it could be just something like, you know, "You never listen to me. You always do just what you wanna do." Well, neither one of those things are ever true, right? But it could be true that, "Hey, Jess, I don’t have the experience that you’re really listening to me. And I’m feeling kind of like our relationship’s more about what you wanna do than any interest in what I wanna do." One, your amygdala has to defend itself from. You know, the amygdala, the reptilian part of the brain. And that part of the brain that’s right there at the base of the brainstem, its job was to have us survive. So, that’s where all that sorting comes from, right?

You’re constantly scanning for threats. And the threats used to be real. The tiger in the tree, that poisonous berry, that tribe that’s going to attack us, whatever, you know what I mean? But we have very few of those now, but the amygdala has not reduced its part of our life at this level of evolution at all. It’s just found a different thing to have survive. And that is our persona, our ego, our sense of self. That’s what it’s protecting as if the survival of those things was dependent, was a life and death matter. That’s how we get to this level of polarity. People are now defending their point of view as if their point of view somehow was discovered to be wrong, it would be life-threatening to them. People will pick up a gun and shoot somebody for that.

So, the first thing is this, if you’re really interested in listening, if you’re really listening with interest in the dialogue, are you starting, at least, with paying attention to, "How do I speak? Is what I’m saying hearable? Am I willing to move into inquiry versus bringing my conclusions?" You know, very different thing for me to say, "Oh, Jess, I’m sure I get it completely what it’d be really like right now to be raising a Black son in this time." You know, wow, that would be really intense. That’s a very different thing to me to say, "Wow, I realize I can’t quite imagine what that would be like." That’s an invitation to you to share your real heart, your real truth. It doesn’t give me something to confirm about myself. That’s that kind of background purpose of what’s going on all the time.

Jess: Right. Right. And I know there’s something about our way of being, literally who we are choosing to be when we walk into a conversation. So, tell us about that. The distinction of being when we listen and how that can shift so much for ourselves and the other person to your point, because, man, it’s easy to listen when I know I’m walking with the bias that we’re mainly gonna agree. But when I’m walking into a situation, say, with my dad, I mean, I’ve been in my amygdala. I was in my amygdala on a phone call a couple of months ago, or maybe like five weeks ago. And I didn’t love how I showed up, but, man, I didn’t… It just came out, like, it just happened, you know?

Marie: Yeah. And, you know, this is the thing. We’re talking about neurological wiring. And we’re talking about neurological wiring that has the quality of… it’s not like flexible wire still laying on the floor, able to be moved around. It’s been laid into stucco walls and hardened into place. And you know what I’m saying? So, it’s the job we’re talking about here. You know, the listening that the healing of our country, for sure, is going to require. It’s gonna be one in which, who we’re being is not the defended “right” part of the conversation, but questioning, remembering that the person you’re talking to is another human being with their own experience.

They are as much a spiritual light in the world as you consider yourself to be, and they may not be expressing it the way you express it, but you don’t know anything about them until you can get past the defended part of the conversation. If I’m coming in and look, I mean, there’s lots of people, as we well know, that I have to have conversations with that stand in a very different view of the world than I do, that think things should be a very different way than the way I think they should be. But I can’t have a profitable conversation with them if I’m walking into the conversation to convince them that they’re wrong. Who you have to be bringing is, "I’m interested in knowing and understanding how you see the world."

Jess: Even if that other person is not being that way. And that’s what makes it so hard.

Marie: Almost especially. I mean, it’s actually easy if the other person’s walking in an inquiry. That’s very simple. I mean, it’s still may be hard. You still may be in a conversation where you disagree about things. But it’s an unrelated thing to talking to somebody who is still coming at you with an intention to prove to you that you’re wrong. You don’t have a prayer of moving them from that place if you’re gonna be stuck in the opposite polar position. There’s not a chance.

 

Creating Opportunities for Connection

Jess: So, what advice can you give when we’re hearing something that sends us to that place of anger and frustration, or let’s say we did walk in all of the Zen that we could have mustered. You know, all day, we’re like, "I’m going to listen. I am going to take deep breaths." And then you find yourself reacting in anger. How can we react in a way that can cause opportunity for connection rather than aggression, or, you know, making the other person feel wrong or bad?

Marie: I would say you really wanna start with, you know, as much as possible, even just pick it by a day or pick it by conversation. But this does take intentionality. So, you might say, "I have these three conversations this afternoon. I don’t know how they’re gonna go, but here’s my commitment for those conversations. So, I’m walking in not as my story, my automaticity, my machinery, I’m walking in as my commitment. I’m coming to this conversation; I know this person and I see the world differently. My commitment in this conversation is, no matter how the conversation goes, to stay in inquiry, to stay in interest, to stay in questioning, to stay in a shared understanding, building…"

Well, shared understanding doesn’t mean agreement. It means, "My intent is to get to a place where I understand how that person sees the world, and to be able to have a conversation in which they understand how I see the world." Now, and oftentimes, I can only get to the first one in a first conversation. So, first of all, you’ve gotta be operating from that commitment. Now, when the amygdala ticks off, which it will do when it has its little buttons pressed, you just have to notice it. I mean, to be honest, I talk to mine. I do.

“Shared understanding doesn’t mean agreement. It means, my intent is to get to a place where I understand how that person sees the world, and to be able to have a conversation in which they understand how I see the world." Marie Case

Jess: You do?

Marie: I literally think of it like a little reptile. And I just think, "Okay, you, you’re not needed. Go back to sleep. It’s okay. I’ve got this. I’m fine." Because it’s coming up to protect me. It has a job: the survival of me or what I consider myself to be. And most of us spend most of our lives considering ourselves to be our point of view, our persona, our ego, our sense of reality. So, it’s doing its job. It’s not a bad thing, but just like anything else, you know, you can say, "Okay, job done. Got it. I’m fine. Don’t worry." And that actually is very helpful. Then I return to what I’m committed to.

And the first place I go is, if I feel at all triggered, I stop talking. Just close your mouth. You know, let that other person talk and try to peer through, "What are they saying? How is it they see the world?" The first next things that will come out of my mouth will be, "So, let me see if I understand what you’re saying." And boy, if you wanna bring the temperature down in conversation really fast, reflect what they were saying more deeply than their ability was to say it.

Jess: This is your magic trick. This is definitely my biggest takeaway. And even though… Even in premarital counseling, you know, 18 years ago, our therapist had taught us mirror dialogue. So, it’s very similar but then really taking that to another level. And what you said once that I’ve repeated often is that a recreation creates a disappearance. So, break that down for our listeners.

Marie: It’s very, very simple. I mean, here’s a very simple example, right? This is a circumstance that I’m in all the time: I walk into a room, it’s a new client. You know, there’s a group of people in there that are in there because their boss hired me. And I will oftentimes start the conversation by saying, "So, I know you’re all really excited today because everybody loves it when a new management consultant comes in." And they laugh. It’s because they’re sitting there tensely thinking, "Oh no, what is this gonna be? Not another one." You know, like, "This isn’t gonna be useful. And I don’t wanna do this." And, you know, the famous, "She’s gonna borrow our watch to tell us the time."

And so, as soon as somebody has a background conversation and you can name it, they don’t have… they’re not… It just disappears. It just dissipates. It’s gone. I have to talk to myself about it because I don’t think anybody’s heard it. When somebody else says, "I’ve heard it…" This is why I say the thing that I started with about, you know, listening may be the most profound act of love you can give anyone. You you’ve met my best friend of 40 years who lives in the little house in front of me. You know, she and I had a painful fight a couple of days ago. It was time for the ball moss to be removed from the tree. And when we last did it in 2017, she hadn’t started gardening yet. So, she didn’t remember the reign of terror of ball moss falling from all the trees that has to get collected up.

Now, she has this really beautiful garden in front of the house. And the day that it happened, I didn’t plan it to happen that day. They came at a different day than I thought they were coming. So, I was, like, on a phone with a client, and all of a sudden,  madness was happening. Like, there were 15 people in my beautiful trees, and I had to get, you know, the neighbors on board and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And I got to her house and I wanted to say, "Whoa, that was so intense." And she, in my experience, let me have it. And I couldn’t hear her at that moment. I could not recreate what she was saying. I was full already. It wasn’t until the next day in which we could sit down, and she could say, "It doesn’t matter to me whether it’s your fault or not. I love every single one of those plants, and seeing them, all that stuff drop out, and then some of them were being injured, and some of them got hurt, it really hurt my heart."

I was like, "Oh, of course. Let me see if I got that. You’ve spent two years tending these little tiny plants and growing them into these beautiful, beautiful creatures, which you go out and water, and tend, and talk to every single day. And we didn’t get the chance to set these guys up to be respectful about that. And some got damaged and you felt like there was no concern for this thing that’s like your child. And some things really were actually damaged. And that really is painful." I mean, I was in tears at the end of thinking about it, because I realized, you know, how profound that was to her.

 

Listening, Empathizing, and Understanding

Jess: Well, and that’s the thing. When you can recreate it, you’re also so putting yourselves exactly in their bias, whatever is going on in their mindset, that the empathy that arises from that is so connecting. I mean, it’s so beautiful. So, it creates a disappearance for the listener, and it creates such a deep empathy and connection for the person who is able to get out of their amygdala and really recreate how that other person must feel. I mean, you have to leave your own ego, your own point of view, your own everything in order to do that for someone else.

And to your point, that is the greatest act of love because what we want, we all want to be known. I mean, we are born with this, you know, we’re created in the image of God and we want to be known. We want to be loved. And what enables a knowing in us, you know, is for someone to be able to, like, know us through those words of being able to recreate how we felt, we feel so known in that moment.

And yeah, to your point, it’s like, I’ve been in this situation, you know, many times when you’re able to get… actually I had one, a powerful time with my husband two weeks ago. We had been not okay. And he is exploring this business partnership. It’s been really stressful as you can imagine. So, introducing new hard conversations in the midst of already a lot of conversations in our home with a Black son, and a pandemic, and all of the things. And we were missing the mark.

And we were able to come together in such a way. And even at the beginning of the conversation, I wouldn’t say I was completely open-hearted, but I was talking to my amygdala, you know, and I’m like, "Stay here, stay here." And then he gave a couple of words, and then I was able to say, "So, what I hear you saying, are you saying, you know, this?" And it was way more, it was like exactly what he was feeling, but because he’s a man of few words, he hadn’t even been able to, like, put it like that. But it was like, "Oh, that’s it." And I remember he got teary and I got teary because I realized how I was not giving that to him. And how like, "Oh my gosh, like, you’re wanting me to release you with freedom to fail. You know, you want me to just get, like, even if this doesn’t work out, you want me to just give you freedom to pursue this passion."

And I’m telling him that and he’s like, "Yes." And I’m realizing, "I haven’t been giving that to you." And we’re both just crying. And it was that… And the conversation ended. I mean, you know what I mean? There’s not even much to be said when you are able to just… And it just requires, man, it requires so much love. And for me, hard conversations are hard for me because my amygdala is about abandonment. And so, if I, like, say the thing that I really feel, I’m gonna be left, like this person is no longer gonna choose connection with me. That is what speaks to me. And so, I’m still working on it in my friendships. There’s something about the safety of my marriage, where I’m like, "Ah, Joe’s good." Like, we’re in this for a lifetime, but it’s so worth the journey of learning to listen because it does open up new levels of connection and ability to love people in a way that they want to be loved. And that’s so powerful. I mean, ultimately, that’s what influence is.

Marie: Yeah. And, you know, the thing that you’re just saying there is, "Well, what does that require?" Well, as you could see, you know, it requires that you are undefended for a moment. You know, you have to empty yourself of your personal concerns. Of course, yes your preconceptions and your distractions, but you really have to be… you have to let your amygdala go to sleep for a few minutes, because I’m gonna let in completely how you’re seeing the world and what you’re feeling. Like, when you watch me do that, my nervous system is reaching out for your nervous system. I couldn’t even tell you, like, what exactly I am.

It’s because it’s everything, it’s a whole-body thing. It’s not my ears. And in order to do that, I have to be willing to feel whatever you’re feeling. And sometimes, often you’ve seen this. I mean, I’m dealing with people who what they’re feeling in that moment is profound anger, or a deep sadness, or intense jealousy. I mean, it could be anything. And I gotta let everything… I gotta let my defenses down and feel that because, you know, you said the word “mirroring”. I mean, I would tell you that I had done a ton of work on listening before I met Harville Hendrix. You know, who did the Imago work, and is really kind of the father of the word "mirroring" particularly in the counseling world.

Jess: Oh really? Okay. So, you now have a context.

Marie: Oh yeah. Very well. And I think I’ve done probably five workshops with him and his wife because he is the master of it, in my view, but that you can’t be… A mirror can’t be warped. A mirror can’t have its own point of view. You know what I’m saying? A mirror is a reflection.

Jess: Right.

Marie: Think about it. You’re standing there putting on your makeup in the morning. What if your mirror started doing like swirls and stuff? How well could you do? It changed colors or it had a big hole in it or, you know, just… You know, this is this thing is that you… Listening is the whole deal. You’ll say the right things if you have listened. You don’t even have to worry as much about it.

“Listening is the whole deal. You’ll say the right things if you have listened. You don’t even have to worry as much about it.” Marie Case

Jess: That’s interesting. Okay. That is definitely a new distinction for me because when I’m in these situations, I’m listening and I am… then I am listening and I’m kind of, I’m pinning. Like, you know, if I were to have, like, a Pinterest board in my head, like, I’ll pin a feeling. Like, so if a feeling is said, or I’m listening for, "Okay, that person felt this, or this, or this," because then when I’m able to say, "What I hear you saying is," I’m able to reflect back. You see what I’m saying? So, it’s definitely active listening. But what you’re saying is if you’re listening well you will say the right thing or the thing that is gonna help create this disappearance. Is that what you’re saying?

Marie: I am. You know, the very famous psychotherapist of the 1980s, Carl Rogers said, "Active listening means giving one’s total and undivided attention to the other person." And that doing that tells that other person we’re interested and concerned. Well, that’s like giving your total and undivided attention. How good are we at giving our total and undivided attention to anything?

Jess: Oh my gosh. And the iPhone wasn’t in our hands yet.

Marie: Exactly, that’s true. Or a million other distractions. Right. But it’s, you know… it requires… You can’t come to it unless you’re bringing with you a deep respect and care for the other. So, now, you know, you’re talking about, "Now, how do I do that with somebody that I really disagree with?" That if I was in my own car driving along and they spoke on the radio, I would have a conversation with them about how wrong they are. Now, how do we agree to disagree? Well, you can’t do it unless you are willing to figure out what that is for them, what they’re seeing, why they see it that way, what’s underlying that.

"You believe that. Oh, I see. And what makes you say? Okay. And so, then how does that affect you? And what concern does it give you in your life? What are you afraid would happen? What are you hoping will happen? Well, what would that mean for you in your life?" Like just trying to get underneath versus listening for, "Where’s the hook that they say something where I can go, ‘Oh, see, that’s why you’re wrong. Right there. You just said that thing. That’s how you know you’re wrong. Can’t you see that?’" We’re never getting anywhere in that conversation.

“Now, how do we agree to disagree? Well, you can’t do it unless you are willing to figure out what that is for them, what they’re seeing, why they see it that way, what’s underlying that.” Marie Case

Jess: If you’re anything like me, you are going to have this conversation on repeat during this fall season. And what I’m left with coming out of this convo is it we have to choose over and over again to be interested and curious about the other person in a conversation, especially when we don’t agree. And let me tell you, that is the hardest thing for me. I feel a likeness and a possibility in imagining that we are capable of having hard conversations about topics we may disagree over, and if we’re committed to reaching a shared understanding in which each person gets to understand the context, experience, and humanity of the other, then we can do this, guys. We can do this.

Coming out of this conversation with Marie, I was reminded that if we want to heal as a country and move forward, it starts with us being willing and intentional to have conversations and to listen in this very unique way.

You guys, next week’s podcast is… Ah, I’m getting the chills just telling you about it. It is with former NFL player Tim Hightower, and he is a listener. He is a listener. And you are going to see what this kind of listening looks like first-hand during our conversation next week. So, make sure you tune in next week.

If you want to keep up with Marie, you can find her at www.case-leadership.com.  

I’m going to be reading some of the reviews that you guys are leaving. So — and I’ll even leave some of the, you know, snarkier reviews. I’m cool with that. I once had someone call me out and say, “You wouldn’t think Jessica is as intelligent as she actually comes off being. Hmm, a little passive-aggressive there, but you know what, I’m here for it, guys! I’m here for honesty and vulnerability, and I appreciate your feedback which is really what today’s podcast was about: how do we get feedback. So, head on over and give us a review.

Our wonderful music for today’s show is by my good friend Ellie Holcomb. Going Scared is produced by Eddie Kaufholz. And I’m Jessica Honegger. Until next time, let’s take each other by the hand and keep going scared.